Posts Tagged ‘Bill Wambsganss’

Opening Day 1914: American League

March 27, 2014
Stuffy McInnis, first base Philadelphia Athletics

Stuffy McInnis, first base Philadelphia Athletics

Next week marks what most of us consider the real Opening Day for MLB. So it’s time for a look at what was going on Opening Day 100 years ago. As the American League contained the World Champion Athletics, I think I’ll start with them (having done the “outlaw” Federal League already).

The champion A’s were much the same team as the 1913 version with the $100,000 Infield in place (Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank Baker). The outfield was still decent and in Wally Schang the A’s had a good catcher. They led the AL in hits, runs, home runs, RBIs, and average. The Athletics used a dominant pitching staff to rule the A for five years, but it was beginning to fray. Jack Coombs was gone (he pitched only 2 games), Eddie Plank was 38 and not aging well. Herb Pennock had five starts over the previous two years, while Bullet Joe Bush had all of 17. As a consequence, the A’s would have 24 shutouts, but lead the league in no other category. They were fourth in ERA and hits allowed.

Two teams would give them a run for their money. One was Washington. The Senators finished 19 games back, but they had Walter Johnson who led the AL in wins, shutouts, and strikeouts.

The greater challenge came from Boston. the Red Sox still had Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis, ad Harry Hooper as their outfield. Speaker led the league in hits and doubles. Pitcher Dutch Leonard went 19-5 with an all-time low ERA of 1.00 (try losing five games with that ERA). But the most important news at Boston and for baseball in general was the arrival on 11 July of a rookie pitcher from Baltimore with the nickname of “Babe” Ruth. He would go 2-1 over four games (three starts), but it was the beginning of the most famous of all Major League careers.

Around the rest of the AL, Ty Cobb again won a batting title (.368) and the slugging crown (.513). His teammate Sam Crawford led the league in RBIs and triples. Fritz Maisel, a third baseman for the Highlanders, won the stolen base title with 74 and Baker with the A’s copped the home run title with nine. In April future Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber made his debut for the White Sox, while Fred McMullin, one of the 1919 Black Sox (and Faber teammate) played his first big league game with Detroit in August. The 1920s stalwarts Everett Scott and Jack Tobin also first show up in 1914. Finally, 1914 is the rookie campaign for Bill Wambsganss, famous for the only unassisted triple play in World Series history (1920).

In the World Series, Philadelphia would be mauled by the “Miracle Braves” of Boston. It would be the end of Connie Mack’s A’s dynasty (he’d put together another in 1929) and the arrival of Ruth would signal the start of a new dynasty. This one in Fenway Park.

 

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Requiem

February 2, 2010

This is a tale of two men. They didn’t have a lot in common. Oh, they played baseball and were good enough to make the major leagues, but that’s about all they had in common. Their bond is a sad one. They’re  two players who died directly from actions occuring on the field.

Ray Chapman

Ray Chapman is much the more famous. He was born in 1891 in Kentucky and, like Abe Lincoln,  moved to Illinois. He was a good player in the 3 I League (Davenport) and made the majors in 1912 breaking in with the Cleveland team (now the Indians, then the Naps). He came up as a shortstop, spent time at second and third. He did well hitting over .300 three times, posting a slugging percentage over .400 four times, with an  on base percentage over 300 every year (but never above 400). That gave him an OPS of 700 six times and 800 his final year. He avraged over 30 stolen bases with no pop, but managed to average 25 doubles and 12 triples over his nine year career.  He was a better than average shortstop, but not the slickest fielder in the league.

By 1920 the Cleveland team, under player-manager Tris Speaker was in a pennant fight with Chicago and New York. On 16 August they played the Yankees at the Polo Grounds (this was before Yankee Stadium was built). In the top of the fifth inning, Chapman came to bat against Yankees submariner Carl Mays. Mays promptly skulled him. According to the story it was late in the day, the ball was dirty, and Chapman simply never saw the ball. He went down and died the next morning. He’s buried in Cleveland. There is a plaque on display in the Indians museum in his honor. It used to hang on the wall in Memorial Stadium. It’s claimed that his death was part of what led to the outlawing of the spitball and other trick pitches. Maybe, but baseball was already considering that. It did, apparently, lead to the major leagues replacing soiled baseballs much more frequently during games. Cleveland made the World Series that year, defeating Brooklyn in 7 games (best of nine), a Series most famous for Bill Wambsganss’ unassisted triple play. Cleveland needed a new shortstop. They brought up 21 year old Joey Sewell to replace Chapman. That worked. In 1977 Sewell made the Hall of Fame.

Doc Powers

Doc Powers isn’t as well known as Chapman. His name was Mike and he was a college man, attending Notre Dame and becoming a licensed physician. He got to the majors in 1898 with the Louisville Colonels. In 1899 he was traded to Washington (then a National League city), sat out 1900, and jumped to the American League where he played with the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901 into 1909, with a short sidetrip to New York for a few months with the Highlanders (now the Yankees). He was a catcher who put in a little time at first and spent two games in the outfield. He was a decent catcher, backing up the starter in 1902 when the A’s won the AL pennant and went to the World Series when the A’s won a second pennant in1905. He played in three Series games, getting one double in seven at bats. He wasn’t much of a hitter, managing to hit .216 for a career with averages of 18 doubles and 3 triples. His career slugging percentage was .268. On 12 April 1909 he ran into a wall trying to catch a foul pop. He suffered internal injuries that required three surgeries. He developed peritonitis and died 26 April.